Connie Giordano Ziembicki, MHSc, RD, Registered Dietitian, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
A diet low in fibre, fat, lactose, caffeine and spices can help you manage diarrhea, cramps and gas. Eat small, frequent meals and snacks. Try to eat every 2-3 hours. It is also very important to stay well hydrated.
Drink more fluids
Try to drink at least 8 cups or 2 litres of fluid per day to prevent dehydration.
- Choose water, diluted juices, caffeine free soft drinks like ginger ale, weak tea, caffeine-free tea/coffee, sports drinks, and liquid nutritional drinks.
- Jello®, clear soups such as beef, chicken or vegetable broths, and popsicles also count as fluids.
Eat less fibre
- Choose breads and crackers made with white flour.
- Choose white rice and pasta noodles.
- Choose cereals made with refined grains such as corn flakes and cream of wheat.
- Avoid nuts, seeds, dried beans, and peas.
- Avoid dried fruits like prunes, raisins, and apricots, as well as prune juice and seedy fruits like berries and kiwi fruit.
- Eat fewer and smaller portions of fruit in a day. Try melons, peeled apples and applesauce, bananas, oranges without the membranes (the white fibres between the orange slices).
- Eat smaller portions of vegetables. Choose cooked carrots, green or yellow beans, asparagus tips, mushrooms, and peeled white potatoes.
Eat less fat
To reduce your fat consumption:
- Choose lean meats, poultry and fish
- Choose vegetables that have been baked, broiled, steamed or stir-fried instead of those that are deep-fried or served in creamy sauces
- Choose tuna or salmon packed in water
- Use less butter, margarine, oil, cream cheese or peanut butter
Eat less lactose
Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk products. To reduce your lactose consumption:
- Try low lactose products like Lactaid® or Lacteeze® milk or soy beverage
- Choose low fat yogurt without seeds (<2% M.F.)
Drink less caffeine
To reduce your caffeine consumption:
- Drink less regular coffee, tea, colas, or chocolate beverages
- Try decaffeinated coffee, tea, and colas, hot water with lemon or honey, or herbal tea like chamomile (not peppermint tea)
Be careful eating spicy foods
Spicy foods and other foods made with curry, chillies or hot pepper sauce may bother your bowels and cause diarrhea.
Limit the number of sugar-free products you eat or drink
Sugar alcohols such as xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and isomalt are used as sweeteners instead of sugar. These sugar alcohols can be found in sugar-free products like chewing gums, candies, cough drops, cookies, bars and beverages. Try not to eat too many products with these ingredients as they may give you gas and diarrhea.
If diarrhea, gas, and cramping are making you uncomfortable, ask your health care team for a referral to see a